STANDOUT TRACK: No. 8., “¡Latin Flavor!,” the only original, and one of two cuts with vocals, on this album of swinging but tasteful Latin-jazz covers. Puerto Rican-born percussionist Joe Falero initially sings in soft, jazzy Spanish over his band’s laid-back salsa grooves, horns, piano, and flute. After he sings the melody, the instruments echo him, and then the tempo accelerates and Falero chants the band’s name over skittering piano chords that soon give way to booming horns.
MUSICAL MOTIVATION: Following an interview with Nancy Alonso, the host of WPFW’s “Latin Flavor” program, Falero told her: “One day I will make a tune about the Latin flavor—not exactly the show but what the Latin flavor means to me.” Soon after he began writing the song, singing the various instrumental parts because he doesn’t write music. When he saw Alonso later at the Smithsonian Jazz Cafe, she put him on the spot: “She told me, ‘Sing it for me,’ and I did it at her table,” he says.
¡LO-FI! Six of the album’s eight songs are tropical-tinged covers of Latin, Brazilian, and jazz classics. “The people that go to the shows love these tunes,” he says. “They are history.” But Falero still contorts these mainstays: For example, his band gives “Green Dolphin Street” a cha-cha cast. When his band got together for the album, it played “Oye Como Va” and “Watermelon Man” in a salsa style for the first time. The process, Falero says, was fairly DIY. “No special guests and no tricks,” he says. “We recorded this CD live in about three hours.”